Of the 1.5 million annual poisonings in the United States, about 60 percent occur in children 5 years of age or younger. Deaths due to poisoning number about 10,000 yearly.

Prevention

Poisoning in children under age 5 has decreased by about 60 percent. Child-proof closures for non-prescription drugs such as aspirin and for lethal household chemicals have helped. Other influencing factors include: the use of "Officer Ugh" and "Mr. Yuk" symbols and promotion; the annual Poison Control Week publicized through the mass media; and labels using such terms as "poison," "danger," "warning" and "caution" to alert people to potential poisoning.

Toddlers frequently ingest plants and household chemicals. Older children, however, are more adept at climbing and imitating adults, and many of their poisonings involve swallowed medications.

Principles and suggestions for prevention include:

-Keep poisonous chemicals and medications out of sight and out of reach of small children.

-Lock toxic products away when they are unmonitored.

-Store poisons away from food.

-Do not store poisons in containers labeled for foods such as soda pop bottles.

-Do not refer to medicine as candy to children.

-Take medicines out of children's view since children imitate adults.

-Keep children and toys away from areas being sprayed with pesticides and herbicides.

-Keep medications in original and correctly labeled containers.

-Keep Poison Control Center and physician telephone numbers on or near telephones. (Salt Lake Valley residents should call the control center at 581-2151 and other Utahns should use 1-800-456-7707).

-Discard old and outdated medications and poisonous household products by flushing contents down the drain or toilet, then rinsing containers thoroughly with water.

-Keep syrup of ipecac on hand but out of children's reach. Use only when a Poison Control Center specialist or physician advises.

-Take medications in a lighted area where labels can be clearly read and recognized.

First Aid

1. Determine the critical information, which includes: who (age and size of victim), what (type of poison), how much (a swallow, a taste, half a bottle, etc.), when (time of exposure), where (route of exposure, circumstances) and why (accident).

2. Contact the Poison Control Center or a physician immediately. Some poisons produce little damage until hours later (i.e., acetaminophen), while others damage immediately (i.e., acids and alkalis). More than 85 percent of poisonings can be treated through instructions taken over the telephone. Otherwise, victims should be transported to a medical facility.

3. Assess respiration, pulse often.

4. Dilution with water or milk has been a long-standing first aid procedure. Such action is essential for caustics or corrosive substances. However, unless a medical authority advises it, do not automatically administer water to dilute the poison.

5. Inducing vomiting removes poisons from the stomach rapidly. Do not attempt to do so unless a medical authority advises it. Inducing vomiting must be done within 2 to 4 hours of ingestion, or before the poison leaves the stomach. Salt water or mustard water should not be used. Many poisons cause vomiting for some victims. Other victims require syrup of ipecac. This can be purchased without a prescription. It is easily given, efficient and relatively safe.

6. Since only 30 to 50 percent of ingested poisons are removed by vomiting, activated charcoal should be given. It binds the toxic substance within the gastrointestinal tract. If syrup of ipecac was used, activated charcoal should be given after vomiting.